The Walking Dead: Glenn, Nicholas and Father Gabriel

Glenn Rhee, The Walking Dead - AMC
Glenn Rhee, The Walking Dead - AMC /

The Walking Dead is always teaching lessons about life. I was a teacher for 29 years. This last week the show and an article in Forbes taught me about teaching and teachers. I’ve always loved “meta”. This is very meta! It is teaching me about teaching and about myself and my personality as a teacher.

“Glenn has become a teacher,” says Dave Thier of Forbes.  “He’s the kind of teacher who stays with you long after you walk out of their classroom. The kind who cares more about the person learning than about the work they produce. Glenn knows he can’t fix the desolate state of the world, anymore than a teacher can fix a broken system – but they both keep going, day after day, committed to the idea that they know something worth sharing.”

That really hit me. Not only about Glenn, but about me. That’s me. Maybe that’s why my opinions about The Walking Dead always seem so soft. I am a teacher. I taught students of all kinds. Students who were broken. Students who were angry. Students who were criminals and gangbangers.

Broken, angry students often make themselves as unlovable as possible to get you to leave them alone. As a teacher, you have to see through that and love them anyway. You know you can’t fix their brokenness, but if you’re going to have a chance at even putting one or two pieces back in place you have to love them into place. Tossing the broken pieces into the garbage will never work.

Father Gabriel Stokes and Carl Grimes, The Walking Dead - AMC
Father Gabriel Stokes and Carl Grimes, The Walking Dead – AMC /

The other thing I realized from this teacher comment is something about Father Gabriel. I think possibly one reason that Father Gabriel is so overly hated is his position as a teacher/leader/priest.

People expect more of him. They expect him to not be human. He’s supposed to be the teacher. People forget that teachers are people. We expect him to not be broken. He shouldn’t be acting out or afraid. He shouldn’t need help. But he does.

Being broken and needing help has caused him to lose his identity. If he can’t help people, who is he? People have lost respect for him. He used to be a respected leader. He even still wears his collar to try to feel the respect. He needs to be loved. Everyone needs love. Look what it did for Nicholas in such a short time.

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I’ve watched students act completely different in my room than in other rooms just because they felt loved and respected. And I don’t mean babied. I loved them fairly and firmly. And respected them. I said no with a calm voice and a smile. And I didn’t give up on them. It took time. I know I didn’t fix them. But I loved them.

Look at Carol and Sam. She loves him. She talks to him. She gives him advice. Scary advice at times, but advice. In a calm voice. Look at how he responds. And what does she do for Gabriel? “Leave him!” And reluctantly hands him a gun. That’s a simple illustration of levels of respect and how people feel it.

Thank you, Dave Thier, for teaching me about teaching and teachers.